A Passage to India

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A Passage to India Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on E.M. Forster's A Passage to India. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of E.M. Forster
E. M. Forster was born into a middle-class family in London. As a child, he inherited a large sum of money from his great-aunt, and was able to live off of this and focus on writing. Forster attended King’s College at Cambridge, and then became a peripheral member of the “Bloomsbury Group,” a group of intellectuals and writers that included Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey. After university he visited Egypt, Germany, and India, and then was a conscientious objector during World War I. He returned to India in the early 1920s and worked as the private secretary of Tukojirao III, the Maharajah of Dewas (the region of India where A Passage to India is mostly set). A Passage to India made him famous, but Forster is also well-known for his novels A Room with a View and Howards End. Forster was gay (open only to his close friends) and never married. He died of a stroke at age 91.
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Historical Context of A Passage to India
A Passage to India takes place in British-ruled colonial India before World War I. The British Raj (the name of this empire) lasted from 1858 to 1947. The subcontinent was divided into several states, and some of them were allowed to be governed by an Indian ruler, but Parliament and the British royalty maintained power over many provinces and the Raj as a whole. The British influenced and ultimately controlled India’s politics and economics, and introduced Western technology and culture. Forster’s novel examines the many tensions between the British expatriates and the Indians who had to live under a foreign oppressor that saw itself as being there for the Indian’s own good.
Other Books Related to A Passage to India
Forster wrote during the period of Modernism, but he avoided the experimental technical styles of his contemporaries like Virginia Woolf (author of Mrs. Dalloway) and T.S. Eliot (author of The Wasteland). Like other Modernists he was interested in the chaos and dramatic shifts of the dramatically changing world of the second and third decades of the 20th century, but he focused on portraying the chaos of the modern world through his situations and imagery rather than stylistic innovation. The title of A Passage to India comes from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Ahmed Ali’s novel Twilight in Delhi also deals with colonialism in India, and was later referenced by Forster. Rudyard Kipling’s Kim similarly portrays the British Raj, though in a more positive light. Paul Scott’s cycle of novels The Raj Quartet depicts the last years of the Raj and the dawn of Indian independence, but also depicts the kinds of miscommunication and misunderstanding across cultural and racial lines that were a product of colonialism.
Key Facts about A Passage to India
  • Full Title: A Passage to India
  • When Written: 1912-24
  • Where Written: India and England
  • When Published: 1924
  • Literary Period: Modernism
  • Genre: Historical Fiction, Psychological Fiction, Realism
  • Setting: Chandrapore, India and Mau, India
  • Climax: Aziz’s trial
  • Point of View: Third person omniscient
Extra Credit for A Passage to India

Syed Ross Masood. In 1906 Forster became close friends with a young Muslim Indian named Syed Ross Masood, who introduced him to more Indians and inspired him to visit India again years later. Their friendship is partly reflected in the characters of Fielding and Aziz.

Henry and Edward. Forster’s parents originally named him “Henry Morgan,” but at his baptism he was accidentally christened as “Edward Morgan,” which was his father’s name.